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  • Meranda Robey

Buried Treasures

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Richard Palmer sat in a pile of clothes on his couch, surrounded by empty beer cans. The coffee table, which he used to prop his feet up, was covered in particles of weed and ash. Flecks of dust glittered in the shaft of light beaming through the slats of wood over the windows. Aside from the sun, the only other light in the room came from the TV screen. Scrolling across the bottom was the headline: 81-year-old mobster, last link to art heist, sentenced to four years in prison. Richard took a drag of his cigarette, then snuffed it out in the ashtray next to him. He pulled out his phone and dialed the number to a pizza place nearly three towns away. It rang twice before someone answered.

“Elm’s Pizza,” a young girl said. “Will this be pickup or delivery?”

“Delivery, please,” Richard said. “A large meat lover’s pizza. It’s for a friend.”

“Okay. Would you like us to send a message, too?” she asked.

“Just say it’s from Trent.”

“Alright. It should be there in about twenty minutes.”

Richard hung up and swayed as he stood, then made his way to the basement. He flipped a switch and the light flickered on to reveal mountains of water-stained boxes. One box sat in the rafters. It was long and had a four-digit combination lock. He entered 1990 and the box popped open. Inside were thirteen scrolls of paintings. Richard dug one out and unraveled it. The subjects of the painting were Jesus and his disciples. In it, they held down the sails of a ship, frozen in a state of panic. Some seemed to accept their fate while others fought for their lives. Richard rolled the scroll back up and examined another one. He pulled out another, until eventually he had looked through all of them. He carefully put each one back in the box, then locked and carried it upstairs, setting it by the door. He grabbed a t-shirt and a pair of jeans and got dressed, slipping on a pair of muddy old boots. He felt his phone buzz in his pocket. It was a text from an unsaved number that read:

“On my way.”

Richard sighed and turned off his phone, then returned to the living room where he sank into the couch once more. The news had long moved on from the old mobster and the famous Gardner Museum, where the paintings had once belonged, but it was impossible for Richard to get it out of his head. The heist had happened so long ago. It was hard to believe how long it had been. He wasn't much different than he was then, but everything else had changed. People changed. The world had changed. But those paintings--they had always stayed constant. Richard's leg bounced as he sat for nearly an hour, waiting for the inevitable.

The rumble of a truck grew louder and louder. It stopped in front of his house. A door opened, then shut, and a pair of footsteps scraped and tapped against the pavement until they reached the porch. Then, a knock at the door. Richard shot up and ran to answer it. A tall man with grey hair and a grey beard stood in front of him.

“Long time no see, John,” Richard said with a grim look on his face.

“I got your message,” John said. He looked down at Richard’s arm. “New ink?”

Richard glanced at the tattoo John was referring to. It was a mourning dove with the words “RIP Trent Lafayette 1977-2003" written underneath.

“Yeah,” Richard said.

John smirked, and said, “Dumb bastard got us into this mess.”

“I know.”

John sighed, then asked, “You got the paintings?”

Richard responded with a kick to the box by his feet.

“Alright,” John said, turning to walk back to his truck. “Got shovels in the back. Even brought the pizza with me, so I hope you’re hungry. Let’s go pay ol’ Trent a visit.”

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